Animals lacking molecules called cryptochromes have abnormal sleeping patterns because their internal biorhythms are disrupted. New research from scientists at Stanford University, the University of North Carolina and SRI International published in the open access journal, BMC Neuroscience shows that mice lacking these molecules also respond differently to sleep deprivation. This suggests that cryptochromes are also involved in sleep homeostasis, the process by which we feel tired after we have been awake for a long time.
As mammals, our internal (circadian) clock is regulated by the patterns of light and dark we experience. But how that information is transmitted from the eye to the biological clock in the brain has been a matter of scientific debate. Scientists had suspected that a molecule called melanopsin, which is found in the retina, plays an important role. Now researchers have confirmed that melanopsin does indeed transmit light information from the eye to the part of the brain that controls the internal clock. According to the researchers, melanopsin may be one of several photosensitive receptors that work redundantly to regulate the circadian system.
For the first time, a distributed computing experiment has produced significant results that have been published in a scientific journal. Writing in the online edition of Nature magazine, Stanford University scientists describe how they — with the help of 30,000 personal computers — successfully simulated part of the complex folding process that a typical protein molecule undergoes to achieve its unique, three-dimensional shape.